One of the joyful wins of being a blogger and (former) corporate employee, is that I can say whatever the hell I like, and publish it with the push of a button.
Previously, when I was a corporate animal, I wasn’t senior or important enough to be completely off the wall and get away with a brush of the hand, “oh, she’s just our brilliant but eccentric leader, don’t mind her,” nor was I so new to working that no-one cared, “oh she’s learning.” So I kept my head down and talked the right talk (mostly).
This past weekend I caught up with a good friend of mine who works in a large financial institution. She used to be a lawyer, first practice then corporate. Anecdotally she told me, lawyers have one of the highest incidences of anxiety and depression in the country.
Given she is in a very senior peripheral HR function, we got onto the topics of mental wellness and how much the people in companies are really doing or not doing, to support other people in their companies.
Companies don’t make decisions, People do, we argued. Companies are not empathetic, People are. Companies do not wake up one day and decide they will be kind and compassionate today, People do.
My friend observed her ‘company’ was doing a lot to help people with mental wellbeing. They had an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), she told me. You might be familiar with these, you can toddle along to a psychologist for usually, up to ten sessions of company funded counselling. It can be very helpful in some cases, I used one such program when our Balinese conference tragically coincided with the Bali bombings, and we came very close to losing most of our team. It was helpful to talk out the experience and for some more deeply affected, probably helped prevent full-blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
However for many people, it takes an enormous amount of courage to first go see a counsellor, then admit to having counselling and to some, can be akin to an admission of failure in itself.
Going for psychological assistance or counselling is not a failure.
Let’s say that again.
Getting help is not a failure. It is one of the bravest and most admirable things you can do.
If you were a footballer or a tennis player and your game was off, would you pay for someone to analyse your game and help you tweak it for better performance? Course you would. Does your company pay for experts to come in and help you raise corporate performance? Of course it does.
Anyway, one of the limitations of the EAP is that counselling stops outside the room. We go back to our desks and pick up where we left off and get back to being busy getting the RSD done for the RFP so the CEO doesn’t implode, because she overpromised to a client and now you’re scared of underdelivering and incurring the wrath of the CEO because you need your job to pay your bills. Sound familiar? Goodness, no wonder we’re all stressed.
I ask you this, in your assembled group of daily companions (your company) have you considered how to support each other in being human when the going gets tough?
The EAP is a start but it’s not really enough, the real work is up to People, so what’s the answer, People?
A longer form of this post was first published in my monthly column over at Womens Agenda